Shtakamashkan World of the Skavoon

Introduction

I have made some more progress on the Skavoon. I’m still working very much on the conceptual level here, but I’m nearing a level of detail where I should start getting technical. About the planet at least. My knowledge of biology and cultural anthropology(or exology, or whatever) is pretty much altogether conceptual.

The Skavoon, I have decided, are not going to be native to the planet on which they are found, which I have named Shtakamashkan. “Shtakamashkan,” as a name, had a nice odd flavor to it and seemed to fit with, “Skavoon,” well enough.

Before going further I need to figure out if there are any meaningful implications to the Skavoon not being native to this world. There are, of course. The first difference is that this world has no effective native predators to Skavoon young and if any predators were imported they haven’t survived. A second difference is that the Skavoon homeworld orbited a small reddish sun. Either a low M or a high K class. Shtakamashkan orbits a larger yellower Sun, maybe mid G to low F class. This means that the Skavoon are adapted to live in the twilight zone of a fairly cool face-locked world. It also means they and their imported food plants and animals are ill-adapted to the greater ultraviolet output of this hotter sun. We will cover these differences in the next sections.

Lack of Predators

The lack of predators means that their infant mortality rate, although high, is much lower than the race is evolutionarily adapted to. They reproduce quickly and frequently with the genetically implanted assumption that a lot of their young will be eaten by other things. On Shtakamashkan, this has gone haywire. Too many young survive to adolescence. Normally a Skavoon would only mentor a few young during its lifetime. Mentoring, being a fairly costly and time-intensive effort for a Skavoon, takes time away from the other necessary and creative activities of their lives such as caring for themselves, building social networks and careers and any other artistic, philosophical or constructive endeavors they might choose. This is always the case and the Skavoon consider it worthwhile as a race but the number of surviving adolescents is overwhelming on Shtakamashkan.

The two possible responses to this excess of adolescents searching for mentors are to abandon the excess potential proteges or to take on ever more proteges to the detriment of other activities. Since the Skavoon have no inborn instinctive response to such an excess of young, this is an individually selected strategy and both options are taken.

Taking on an excessive number has the effect, as has been mentioned already, of reducing the productivity of Skavoon society. It also has the additional effect that often mentors are less well trained and mentored to exist in Skavoon society than they might otherwise be. A mentor who is juggling the necessities of survival, its creative needs and the proper raising of possibly more than one mentor will find it difficult to accomplish any of these tasks well. So not only are these individuals less socially productive, but their proteges might be more likely to be dysfunctional members of society. Or at least less functional.

The other response is for an individual Skavoon adult to take on a normal number of proteges in its lifetime, thus abandoning additional applicants either to the elements or to the detriment of others. In many Skavoon cultures this is frowned upon, and the individual would suffer social repercussions. In other societies, this is the norm, and raising an excess of proteges would be considered detrimental to society for all of the reasons mentioned above. Most societies select a middle ground or don’t make any judgement one way or another.

What happens when an adolescent Skavoon is unable to find an appropriate mentor? To start with, the Skavoon searches ever more widely in the hopes of sniffing out a potential mentor. The adolescent, as time passes, will grow ever more despondent and desperate. In the competition for mentors, the adolescent will grow bolder and more dangerous in its strategies. Ultimately, many adolescents will go so far as to kill other potential suitors for a mentor, even ones within the social group into which the adolescent had become accepted. Memory of such events will stay with the Skavoon into adulthood, coloring its personality and responses. They will tend to be more single-mindedly selfish, vicious and relentless in seeking their goals. They will also be less apt to take on protegés themselves in adulthood. If a Skavoon goes for long enough without finding a mentor, they will try to find a safe place to settle down and create their own little social order ala Lord of the Flies. They will typically prove surprisingly efficient at creating a new language for themselves and their new proteges, but the society will tend to be necessarily primitive. If they find themselves in an area of excessively low population density they might even go down to an even further stage of solitary bestiality. The nearest equivalent Shtakamashkan has to a polar bear is a deadly solitary hunter off the icy southern lakes. This creature is in fact the degraded remnant of an adolescent Skavoon.

A Different Star

The first implication of this different larger star is that Shtakamashkan has a day/night cycle, unlike the Skavoon homeworld. This roughly thirty-eight hour day causes problems to a race adapted to living in near perpetual light. Skavoon adults, like humans, are primarily visual animals. Sounds are a medium for communication and they will respond to alarming noises, but their hearing, outside of their linguistic envelope, is not very acute and they are less likely to notice noises of unsuccessful sneaking like breaking twigs or footsteps than a human would be. The acute sense of smell of a juvenile Skavoon quickly atrophies after the adolescent sniffs out a proper mentor, with only enough short ranged scenting ability to augment their still acute palate.

On their homeworld and in conditions of adequate lighting, the Skavoon’s capability to see in a 360º circle around themselves makes it difficult to sneak up on them except in very close environments such as thick forest. One can presume that most of the Skavoon homeworld was not densely wooded. Skavoon on Shtakamashkan find themselves at something of a disability at a light level below that of a late civil twilight. Thus, the Skavoon are not well able to function without artificial light during the Shtakamashkan night. This is different from the ancient traditions of their people on the homeworld who were productive around the clock with individuals scheduled to sleep at need. When the Waqu first came to this world they were a starfaring civilization with the ubiquitous availability of electric light, so this wasn’t a problem, but more primitive later Skavoon would have to adapt their sleep cycles as much as possible to match the cycles of their adopted world. Particularly problematic is the fact that Skavoon seem to be adapted two a twelve hour on three hour off cycle not well suited to Shtakamashkan’s 19 hours of darkness. Skavoon have problems on this planet with nighttime insomnia and daytime fatigue.

The greater ultraviolet light requires the Skavoon to artificially protect their skin and eyes from damage. Skavoon will frequently blister after fairly short exposures to sunlight on this planet. Parasols, hats and, where possible, overcoats will be de rigeur fashions among the Skavoon on this world. More of an issue will be nutritional deficiencies. Although Skavoon find the native biochemistry to be edible, it will not supply all necessary nutrients. They will need to supplement from other sources. Growing plants from their homeworld will be difficult for more primitive Skavoon societies, so, although animal foods were a minor adjunct to Skavoon on their homeworld, hunting and scavenging will be necessary to supply additional nutrients missing from native plants but present in some native animals. Additional nutrients might just have to remain deficient. I will assume some of the imported plants may have survived as undergrowth in heavily forested regions(overrun by Skavoon young and hostile primitive tribes of course), and Skavoon might also augment their diets with a particular species of troublesome vermin…

Conclusion

Already we see some cultural features that exist solely as resposes to the environment.  Hats and parasols, increasing carnivory, possible cannibalism, rampant dietary deficiencies. Fear of the night. Sleep problems. Altered childrearing practices. All of these should figure in the cultural development stage.

I think its time to work on the astronomical and geographical features of this world now.

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3 Responses to Shtakamashkan World of the Skavoon

  1. Chris says:

    Excellent stuff…seems like you’ve thought this through quite a bit. I can’t imagine the time and research that has gone into creating just what you have already. Can I expect to see a map on Cartographers’ Guild soon or is it there already?

    • Astrographer says:

      I did have the Al Burphaban project going on for awhile. Then I realized how much time I was putting into a less-than-serious practice project. Tends to be my less serious projects have elements like, “burp,” “fart,” “wallow,” and, “haggis,” in their names. I didn’t want to spend the next six months naming rivers and towns in the Burps.

      If all works out, Shtakamashkan might be my next serious mapping project. I wonder if I can get together a campaign where everybody is a bony land-squid?

      • Chris says:

        That’d be great…Normally one would say pics or it never happened, but in this case, I’d love to see some vid footage from that session.

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